Big Jim Sullivan — “Translove Airways (Fat Angel)”: Brace for the Obscure (60s rock)! — May 7, 2023


817) Big Jim Sullivan — “Translove Airways (Fat Angel)”

Jimmy Page and Big Jim Sullivan were the two towering session guitarists of Swinging London. Big Jim also mastered the sitar and recorded two albums of sitar-ploitation headswirlers (see #217). On this ‘67 album track/‘68 B-side, he takes us on a flight on Donovan’s “Translove Airways”.

Ritchie Unterberger says of the album (Sitar Beat) that:

Top British session guitarist Jim Sullivan was not a novice to the sitar when he recorded this instrumental album in 1968, having studied it seriously and established himself as the only non-Indian session musician who could play the instrument on U.K. recordings. The record still sounds like rather cheesy East-meets-West à go-go, though.

Consider me a sucker for rather cheesy East-meets-West a go-go!

As Bruce Eder tells us, Sullivan then did another sitar album: “Sullivan had already recorded a whole album of sitar-based music entitled Sitar Beat for Mercury Records . . . when someone at Regal Zonophone — an imprint of EMI . . . decided that they needed an album to cash in on the boom . . . . Thus was born ‘Lord Sitar[]’”. (

Progarchives tells us about Sullivan and the sitar:

In 1965 Big Jim Sullivan took his first lesson on the Sitar from a Professor at a London College of Ethnic Music. Going to a music school must have been a novel idea as Big Jim had been playing guitar on sessions since 1957, resulting in his presence on more UK hits than anyone else. His tuition was also taken from a famous Indian player who had been studying for many years (the first two years in India are spent solely on the Tabla before they touch a Sitar) and gave Jim the necessary insight to be a creditable player. The result was Jim being asked to record even more sessions as the Sitar became a de rigeur instrument on virtually all mid 60’s rock pop records. He taught Jimmy Page, took his Sitar over to George Harrison’s Esher pad to enlighten the Beatle. So we come to 1967 and Mercury Records decide to cash in on the raga craze and take from Big Jim an entire LPs worth of where Sitar met Rock. The contents are a perfect blend of late 60’s pop with the Tabla & Sitar sound and arrangements.

Dave Laing tells us about Sullivan:

The sound of British pop music in the 1960s was largely the creation of unsung recording-session musicians who accompanied the solo singers of the era and were frequently enlisted to improve the efforts of well-known pop groups. The principal guitarists of this elite team were Jimmy Page . . . and Big Jim Sullivan . . . . Sullivan played on more than 50 British No 1 hits . . . . [B]orn Jim Tomkins . . . [he took] up the guitar at 14[,] gravitated towards the Soho haunts of skiffle and rock’n’roll, and in 1958 joined Marty Wilde’s backing group, the Wildcats. . . . In 1960, Sullivan and fellow guitarist Joe Brown joined the British tour of the American rock stars Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent. Although the tour ended in tragedy when Cochran was killed in a car crash, the young British players had by then learned the secrets of the authentic rock’n’roll style from him . . . . Sullivan was a pioneer of guitar technologies such as the wah-wah pedal, the fuzzbox and the talkbox, and later recalled that the older generation of musicians, schooled in the style of the dance bands, called him the Electric Monster, “because I made the guitar scream and groan when I bent and pulled the strings”. . . . For more than a decade, Sullivan played three three-hour sessions a day at studios in London. He . . . calculated that about 1,000 tracks on which he played had entered the British charts. Between 1969 and 1974, Sullivan combined session work with membership of Tom Jones’s band . . . .

Here’s Donovan:

I have added a Facebook page for Brace for the Obscure 60s Rock! If you like what you read and hear and feel so inclined, please visit and “like” my Facebook page by clicking here.

Pay to Play! The Off the Charts Spotify Playlist! + Brace for the Obscure 60s Rock Merchandise

Please consider helping to support my website/blog by contributing $6 a month for access to the Off the Charts Spotify Playlist. Using a term familiar to denizens of Capitol Hill, you pay to play! (“relating to or denoting an unethical or illicit arrangement in which payment is made by those who want certain privileges or advantages in such arenas as business, politics, sports, and entertainment” —

The playlist includes all the “greatest songs of the 1960’s that no one has ever heard” that are available on Spotify. The playlist will expand each time I feature an available song.

All new subscribers will receive a Brace for the Obscure 60s Rock magnet. New subscribers who sign up for a year will also receive a Brace for the Obscure 60s Rock t-shirt or baseball cap. See pictures on the Pay to Play page.

When subscribing, please send me an e-mail ( or a comment on this site letting me know an e-mail address/phone number/Facebook address, etc. to which I can send instructions on accessing the playlist and a physical address to which I can sent a magnet/t-shirt/baseball cap. If choosing a t-shirt, please let me know the gender and size you prefer.

Just click on the first blue block for a month to month subscription or the second blue block for a yearly subscription.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: